Volleyball: Hill-Murray tested by Tartan

Pioneers win 5-game match

Hill-Murray 3 - Tartan 2

The Hill-Murray Pioneers volleyball forces traveled to Oakdale Oct. 8 to face the Tartan Titans in a key Classic Suburban Conference contest.

What the Pioneers - 8-0 in the CSC and 17-4 overall - didn’t expect was an ambush by the Titans - 6-2 CSC and 11-10.

But that was exactly what they got. The Titans were waiting with anticipation and mounted a stifling defense and blistering offense that almost provided the Pioneers with their first conference defeat of the season.

The key word in the above sentence is “almost.” The Pioneers survived the concerted Tartan effort and won the match in five games.

Hill-Murray coach Tim Walen breathed a huge sigh of relief afterward and complimented Tartan’s defense. “They were amazing!” he stated emphatically. “They played better than us for the most part. Their digging, their passing and their hitting were really on. They battled us for every point.

“The fourth game made the difference. When we were able to pull that one out, it made a huge difference. We were lucky tonight, but then good teams get lucky when they have to.”

“We were probably better prepared for this game than any we’ve ever been prepared for,” said Tartan coach Josh Mattison.

“We knew what to expect and knew who we had to stop and where. We were the most prepared that we could be.

“Our kids played their hearts out tonight. We’re disappointed. We could have won tonight. In the end we were outplayed,” Mattison said.

“After they won game four, they played with more confidence than we did. Down the stretch their confidence was outstanding. They played to win, and we haven’t reached that point yet. We seemed to be playing not to lose.

“Now we have to see if we can get some carryover for our game with North tomorrow.” 

Coach Mattison smiled as he contemplated an Oct. 9 match with School District 622 rival North High.

Evenly matched

The Titans came right out swinging at the unsuspecting Pioneers. Their overall aggressiveness caused the Pioneers to uncharacteristically make unforced errors.

Game one saw the score tied eight times. First one team would reel off two or three points. The other would come back and counterpunch with two or three points.

At 14-14, following a set by Mikayla Miller and a tip for a point by Lily Reyes, Tia Elbert went to the service line for the Titans. Tartan, with an ace serve, moved the count to 19-14.

The Pioneers picked up a couple of points, but Tartan had the momentum and won game one 25-17.

Now Hill-Murray knew it was in a war.

Game two got underway and if anything, the intensity shown by the teams, increased. Several long volleys were punctuated by amazing digs and saves.

Game two was tied no less than 14 times, the last at 20-20.

After a set by Hill-Murray sophomore setter Hannah Angeli and a kill by Kennedy Fabian, Ellie Schwartz went to the line followed by Natalie Cole.

After couple of huge blocks by Lauren Simonson and Fabian and a lone block by Simonson, the Pioneers closed out the Titans 25-21.

By now, with the match at 1-1, Hill-Murray knew it was in a war.

Game three got underway and one could feel the electricity in the air as each team parried the other for an advantage. 

The Tartan defense continued to be stifling. In game three the Titans forced the Pioneers to make no less than 14 unforced errors and they refused to be intimidated by their high-riding opponents.

The Titans broke from a 10-10 tie and began to score in spurts. In the end a huge kill - off a set by Miller- by Haley Kissner gave the Titans the serve. Two of Hill-Murray’s unforced errors ended the game with Tartan on top 25-19 and now up by games 2-1.

Game four got started with the Pioneers unaccustomed to have their backs to the wall.

It was a little different in that one team would move to a four or five point margin before the other would come back to challenge.

The game was knotted just five times, the last at 17-17, before the Pioneers’ “confidence” took over.

Down the stretch Hill-Murray outshot the Titans 8-2 and won game four, 25-19, to push the match to a deciding game five.

It was obvious that Tartan had intended to put the Pioneers away with a game four victory. When that didn’t happen one could sense that the Titans’ confidence was beginning to sag.

The fifth game in a volleyball match is played - unless it is tied - to just 15-points.

Tartan scored the first point, but it soon found it would have problems breaking down the Hill-Murray self-assurance.

At 1-1 - after a block by Hill-Murray sophomore Schwartz - Rachel Kueppers went to the service line.

Before she was moved back to her position on the floor, the score read 7-1 Pioneers.

The teams exchanged side-outs before Hill-Murray gained four more points and the score jumped to 13-3.

Side-outs were exchanged before the Pioneers had the 15-5 game four win and the hard-fought-for match, 3-2.

In the match Tartan kills were made by Reyes 14, Kayla Morris 13 and Kissner 8.

Miller had 40 set assists, while Paige Loibl managed 30 digs and Reyes served three aces.

Stats for Hill-Murray saw Kennedy Fabian 19 and Marisa Franco 17 lead in kills. Simonson recorded five blocks and in set assists, Angeli 19, she also served two aces, and Fabian 16 led in that department.

Digs were made by Natalie Cote 27, Fabian 18, Angeli 14 and Franco 12.

The teams finished the regular season play on Oct. 15. The section playoffs begin Oct 23 for Hill-Murray in Section 4AA. Both Tartan and North will begin Section 4AAA playoffs Oct. 22.

First round playoff games will be played at the school with the highest seed.


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